Business Leaders

New pastures for Brent Linn

Brent Linn has stepped down as general manager of Hawke’s Bay A & P Society, one of the region’s oldest and most traditional organisations.

Brent was in the role for seven years and during that time has seen the society add additional events such as the Edible Garden Show, while at the same time ensuring the long-term sustainability of the annual Hawke’s Bay Show. In 2017, the showgrounds hosted 101 events.

He also established a master plan for the venue, which he hopes will be fully implemented.

The Profit caught up with Brent and asked him about some of his highlights and what the future holds for both the A & P Society and himself.

What are some of the highlights of your tenure?

Growing the society events to become a true celebration of the incredible diversity, resourcefulness and success of our primary sector industry and people.

Reconnecting the showgrounds with the wider Hawke’s Bay community, a symbolic opening of the gates to its beneficial owners and a general, more outward- looking organisation. Last year we hosted 260,000 people at the showgrounds at 101 events.

Establishing a master plan for the development of the showgrounds; delivering the $1 million Stage 1 infrastructure phase in 2017 and developing the concept plans for the $3.5 million multi-use building to support the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market, Horse of the Year and other users.

What have been the challenges?

Trying to develop the society events and the showgrounds venue with limited financial resources.

What does the future of the organisation look like?

Bright I believe. The realisation of the opportunities that have been created is going to be down to the new team and leaders; all the building blocks are there, it’s just a case of arranging them.

Most people know the A & P Society for the spring show, but it’s more than that… can you briefly explain its activities?

The society is a not-for-profit, registered charitable, membership-based organisation whose charter directs it to showcase and champion the primary industry’s contribution. It has about 800 members ranging from farming families through to Hawke’s Bay businesses to urban families. Membership is open to anyone and currently costs $65 per annum.

It owns the showgrounds, a common misconception being that they are owned by the Hastings District Council, so unfair comparisons are sometimes made with other venues that are funded by the ratepayer.

The society delivers four events and after 154 years, the spring show is naturally the most recognised. That said, the National Horticultural Field Days, Napier Port Primary Sector Awards and the Hawke’s Bay A & P Bayleys Wine Awards are now more important in that direct engagement with the primary industries.

What are your future plans?

I have a couple of personal projects that I am working through in the short term, most notably, vintage 2018 at my vineyard. However, 2018 is all about getting that much talked-about work–life balance thing sorted so I will be looking towards project-based roles that have a beginning, middle … and end.

What type of roles will you be looking at?

Supporting my agriculture degree, I have 30 years’ experience in building business capability, infrastructure development and relationship management in and around the primary sectors. I now want to utilise that experience to help businesses that have a development or process they are working through; in simple terms, project management.

What does the future of the primary sector look like in Hawke’s Bay?

Generally, the Hawke’s Bay primary sector industries are on a roll and are currently enjoying good product prices and good conditions climatically. We can look at investor confidence in certain sectors of the Hawke’s Bay primary sector – for example, Pipfruit – as providing an insight

into heightened expectations around the future of those sectors.

In wider terms, what do you see as the challenges facing the primary sector in Hawke’s Bay?

OK, you could call them challenges but those who master them will turn them into opportunities. Here are a couple off the top of my head:

For the exponentially expanding horticulture sector, it would be having the right people at the right time in the right roles. So, the industry or operators will need to consider how their recruitment, training and reward structures attract and retain staff, from the orchard to the board room.

Another will be that whole collision of opinion surrounding the environment and the production of food that will see those who take an entrenched position, on either side, being left behind. We will see the increasing importance of production accreditation schemes, traceability and the consumers’ connection to the place of origin.